Black Panther and the Triggered Right

As I’ve discussed before, the term “triggered’ is often used by the right-wing to criticize people who get worked up about an issue that the right views as invalid. The use of “triggered” also implies that the right doesn’t have any issues that they care about, implying that they don’t worry about the trivial things the rest of us “snowflakes” do.

Which is why I find it so amusing to point out the double standard in this world view. For the newest exhibit, I present Black Panther. Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Black Panther is the target of a barrage by the alt-right. The alt-right takes credit for The Last Jedi’s Rotten Tomatoes score, saying they used bots to create fake reviews. Now they have their sights set on a upcoming superhero film.

Aside from giving us a heroic black main character, Black Panther will introduce Wakanda, a fictional African nation untouched by colonialism. It is wealthy, technologically advanced and has little to no contact with the outside world.

There was a mob of people got angry when they saw John Boyega in a stormtrooper costume for five seconds in the first trailer for The Force Awakens, so I knew it was a matter of time before Black Panther got heat for positive portrayals of black characters. People are always quick to argue that online discussion doesn’t matter. Yes, there are some people who make inflammatory comments that they don’t genuinely support. They do it for the purpose of attention and we call them trolls. It is convenient to think that every racist comment you read online is the work of a troll, but that mindset is not just delusional, it is downright dangerous. Steve Bannon, the Breitbart editor who was temporarily the White House Chief Strategist, said that online hate is an “army”.

“You can activate that army,” Bannon stated. “They come in through Gamergate* or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.”

Gamergate, in short, was an online hate campaign that targeted Anita Sarkeesian for speaking out on misogyny in the video game industry. What some people ignore as a bunch of trolls, became a weaponized force that helped to put Trump and his ilk in office. These aren’t just words. These aren’t a few harmless comments. They are the child of a much larger issue in society, a growing resentment and outright hate of minorities that is further emboldened by all the hate the commander in chief spews.

When the left complains about whitewashing in films, we’re told we’re being divisive. We’re focusing on race too much and not letting talent breathe. Now we get a talented black director, directing a large cast of talented black actors. We have black actors doing more than playing thugs, comic relief or supporting characters. Black Panther is like most of Hollywood’s films, where one race of people get the privilege of most of the roles and the roles with the most variety.

However, some people are ignoring the talent in the cast or the interesting story that the trailers hint at. They see too much blackness. Specifically, they see too much black greatness. These people would complain about a film where we’re slaves as well, since say they see that as an attempt to make them feel guilty or to stir up conflict (instead of simply seeing it as a history film). It turns out these people don’t like the other end of that extreme too.

  1. I don’t see my race represented enough! (although there are plenty of other films where you will see it disproportionately represented).
  2. It makes my people look bad. (For all we know it won’t. If it does, welcome to our world. We’re always told just to suck it up because it’s just a movie.)
  3. It’s wrong that black people are so proud of themselves. (Aren’t you the people that argue that the marches in Charlottesville were just a little racial pride? You have your free speech, we have ours.)

I’m looking forward to seeing Black Panther and there’s nothing the alt-right and their bots can do about it.

Racism and Denial

For anyone who has read my posts on race, you know that I am not one of the people who claims that we now live in a “colour-blind society” where racism is dead. Many people would call me a “race-baiter”, “libtard” or “social justice warrior” because I discuss things such as racial profiling, or the rise of white supremacy in America.

A modern refrain from people who deny racism nowadays is that minorities need to just work hard and stop complaining. Basically, racism is dead now and there is no need to protest. With that in mind, I stumbled across an interesting article on Medium that explored how white people have held the same beliefs, even during times of more blatant discrimination such as Jim Crow segregation.

https://medium.com/@timjwise/white-denial-is-an-american-tradition-its-time-to-bury-it-93173be29a03

Tim Wise studies survey data that reveals that most (50% +) white people surveyed during times such as the 1950’s and 1960s still believed that black people complained too much about racism and that their protests were divisive. Remember now, some of these polls are taken at times when black people weren’t allowed to vote or go to school with white people. Yet, most white people still argued that black people should just work hard and stop complaining.

For those of us with decent reading comprehension we can understand the point Wise is making: No matter the time or level of discrimination, most white people will still deny that racism is a problem. He is not personally attacking all white people or saying they are all racist. He is not saying racism now is AS BAD as it was then. It is hard to actually read the article and not understand the point, or disagree with the conclusion Wise drew from it.

However, just about every comment missed the point and actually strengthened Wise’s argument regarding the denial of racism. It is clear most of the people who disagreed with Wise likely did not even read the article. One person explicitly says the article is a personal attack. Another says he stopped reading when he saw statistics from 1966 (even though Wise’s argument doesn’t work without older statistics).

This is a clear case of people reading the headline and maybe the first paragraph, and then rushing to the comments to call the anti-racism educator a racist. All these comments are coming from the same side who routinely argue about the left being “triggered” or “snowflakes”. Who is triggered if the simple mention of racism makes you dash to attack the author before you even read an argument that he clearly laid out? How are we ever to reach the supposed “compromise” racists want so badly if no amount of facts are heeded?

I’m Not Racist But…

I think anyone who genuinely isn’t racist has caught on to the fact that the new breed of racists reject the label of racist. Trump is just “telling like it is” when he demonized Mexicans and Muslims, people say they have black friends when they get called out for racist thoughts etc.

We have seen this numerous times before but I came across something on Twitter the other day that still left me dumbfounded. I have previously discussed rapper Talib Kweli’s penchant for fighting back at the racist hordes that flock to his Twitter feed, and the person below was another one of them.

So, I know people might be quick to say this man (@GennethKrant) is just a troll. However, his entire feed is filled with these pseudo-intellectual racist statements.  Read what this person wrote here, really try to understand him, and then realize that it is impossible to. This entire statement is one big contradiction. You can’t condemn “terrorizing illegals” and disapprove of marrying Jews and then say you are inclusive, “fair and reasonable”.

Maybe this person is clueless enough to think he is not truly racist since he doesn’t use racial slurs and has black acquaintances who he hangs out with sometimes (while still viewing them as beneath him). The new racists are the Schrodinger’s cat of racists, simultaneously racist and inclusive.

More Right-Wing Straw Mans

For those of you who do not know, a straw man argument is an argument that does not address the argument an opponent made. Typically, the straw man is created by either exaggerating or simplifying an opponent’s argument

For example

Person 1: Racism still impacts minorities

Person 2 (Straw Man): You’re saying minorities shouldn’t work hard since racism holds them back anyway!

This may seem like an exaggeration on my part but the online realm is rife with straw man arguments. This post is actually motivated by an argument some racist (sorry, alt-righter) presented on twitter. According to them, acknowledging that racism still impacts minorities just gives minorities a license to become lazy. Sadly, this thread was met with a wave of support and criticism of liberals who would try to create a utopia where no one has to work hard.

This particular straw man argument is a very popular one and shows the strength of denial and straw man arguments. A lot of people on the right wing, and those sympathetic to them, love to complain about liberals being the ones that never listen to the other side or heed facts that contradict their world view. This straw man argument is one example of an argument that is borne out of willful ignorance.

No reputable figure who studies racism or even acknowledges its impact tries to argue that minorities shouldn’t bother to work hard or improve themselves, since racism will stop their progress anyway. This is not an argument that liberals make. There is plenty of evidence to show that racism still impacts minorities, such as the study that people with racially ambiguous names get more responses to their resumes, even though the resumes are identical. So people who don’t want to face the facts can simply ignore the actual details of the study, see the headline that says “racism” and jump to a stupid argument.

My mother never told me I shouldn’t bother to work hard because of racism. I was taught that I would have to work twice as hard to get the same respect. She was right. If I fail, it’s because I’m a lazy black guy. If I succeed, people assume I am unqualified because they don’t understand how affirmative action works.

We are stuck in a cycle where people say we can work hard and succeed, and are then treated with suspicion if we do succeed. Racist assumptions abound as people wonder if we AA’d our way in or if we are selling drugs to support our lifestyle. This is the beautiful colour-blind world we live in.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Warning: This should be obvious but this review will have spoilers for previous Star Wars films

After seeing The Last Jedi yesterday, I am now ready to share my thoughts on one of my most anticipated films of 2017. While I believed The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, I still enjoyed the film and Rogue One also cemented my continuing interest in Star Wars lore.

I try to avoid reading or watching any reviews of a film before I see it, since I want to avoid going in with preconceptions. I also try to avoid social media as a whole since Han Solo’s death was spoiled for me by one of the attention-seeking denizens of YouTube. I wasn’t able to abstain completely prior to seeing The Last Jedi but I can only hope that I successfully subdue any preconceptions or at least acknowledge the impact they had on my viewing of this movie.

Episode VIII begins right where VII left off, cutting between the stories of Poe, Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren. I am happy to say that this film doesn’t come across as a complete rehash of Empire Strikes Back, although there are a few moments of similarity. The film’s strongest arc is definitely Kylo Ren’s, who is still dealing with the conflict of truly embracing the dark side. Rey and Ben shippers have a lot to moments to look forward to. Aside from the will they/won’t they moments, Episode VIII delves further into Ben’s past and his relationship with Luke Skywalker.

While the plot revolves around getting Luke to rejoin the Resistance, Luke is a reluctant mentor for Rey. He is a tragic figure whose past failures hinder his ability to move forward. There is plenty to love in the original Star Wars trilogy, but my enjoyment of them was always hampered by Mark Hamill’s subpar acting. Hamill has developed a lot as an actor since then, with a plethora of voice acting and live action roles separating his speaking roles as Luke in Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi. Hamill is able to bring true vulnerability to the role, along with the wisdom expected from the last Jedi Master.

Aside from criticisms that may be reasonable, there is also a slate of alt-right vitriol since this movie has too many women and minorities for their liking. I always found it amusing that people who use the word “triggered” to insult others, are actually the most triggered. They will not be bothered by any of the issues present in “liberal propaganda” but it’s all hands on deck if a film set in another galaxy isn’t dominated by white males. I will ignore these people’s opinions, since they are no more valid than the thoughts of a flat-earther.

Andy Serkis puts in another great motion capture performance as Snoke, surrounded by a cast that delivers for the most part. Finn’s marketing bait and switch, from possible Jedi to bumbling comic relief, was one of my biggest criticisms for the previous film and I happy to see that remedied here. Finn has a meatier role this time around. Domhall Gleeson’s General Hux straddled the line between campy and intense in The Force Awakens, but he crosses that line here quite a few times. There are some weak performances from some minor characters; ones who only have a few lines. While this shouldn’t hamper a film too much it didn’t help that two such characters had the film’s first spoken lines, seemingly setting the tone for what was to come.

Rey’s character was met with a flurry of Mary Sue complaints and some fans will be happy to see some of their thoughts addressed here. One reviewer I follow said The Last Jedi is the Cabin in the Woods of Star Wars films, and I have to admit that this thought influenced my outlook on certain scenes. For example, in one scene Snoke criticizes Ben Solo for his lack of commitment to the dark side, noting that killing Han Solo must have broken his spirt since he lost a fight to a girl who had never wielded a lightsaber. With the Cabin in the Woods comparison in mind, I had to think that writer/director Rian Johnson was trying to address some of the previous film’s biggest criticisms. The film also takes this approach when it delves into Rey’s history, giving us a reveal that may be anti-climactic for some, but also helps to set it apart from other Star Wars films.

I think that some of these scenes help to account for the polarizing reception that The Last Jedi has among fans. While The Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 92%, the audience score is 54%. I am sure that this low rating is partly due to people bothered by too much colour and ovaries, but I won’t say that the alt-right is mostly to blame.

The Last Jedi is nearly three hours long, and its length was the main criticism from the friend I saw it with. While I didn’t feel like the film dragged, I will understand if people say it could have been shorter.  New characters are introduced, such as Rose Tico, Star War’s first Asian character and an easy target for the alt-right. She is paired with Finn for the majority of the film and I have to agree that this is a subplot that could have been condensed at the very least. This subplot leads to the infamous confrontation with Phasma that we saw in the first trailer, but one can’t help but wonder if we could have arrived at that moment differently. The subplot would not have been improved if Rose was white. I will say that like Rogue One, this subplot helps to bring in more moral ambiguity to the Star Wars characters. Instead of characters who are affiliated with light or dark, The Last Jedi shows us more who are simply looking out for themselves.

There are some moments of humour, or attempted humour, that do not work. However, I will say that the majority of jokes didn’t feel out of place. Aside from some flat jokes, there are also several scenes or moments that could have been cut to allow screen time to be used more efficiently. Yes, porgs are cute. After the film cut to them for the tenth time, I started to get annoyed. As a result of some unnecessary or dragged out scenes, we miss out on other moments that could have been expanded, such as the reunions of key characters. It would have been great to see more of Princess Leia, especially since this was Carrie Fisher’s last performance. Obviously she may have been written somewhat sparsely with more in mind for Episode IX, but a weak subplot just brings more attention to what else could have been presented. There are now more questions that will have to be answered by Episode IX. 

To end on a more positive note, The Last Jedi, has moments, whether dramatic or action-oriented, that I believe will become iconic parts of Star Wars lore. The action, at the very least, is sure to please fans, but I believe the film has more to offer as well. I honestly believe I may need to watch The Last Jedi again before I can give it a true rating. For the moment, I will say that I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Star Wars Film Rankings

Rogue One

A New Hope

The Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

The Last Jedi

The Force Awakens

Revenge of the Sith

“” Attack of the Clones

“” The Phantom Menace

Jason Isaacs and Free Speech

I have previously discussed the phenomenon of people who don’t believe that celebrities are allowed to have opinions. Any political comment, whether it is in an interview or on social media, is derided as inappropriate and a breach of some supposed social contract.

I don’t despite this mindset simply because it has resulted in some actors I like being vehemently criticized. I despise this mindset because of the inherent hypocrisy in it.

The most recent example I will use is a tweet I came across from Jason Isaacs, who expertly called out a Star Trek fan who said his political views are alienating the Star Trek Fan base.

 

So here we see a fan who feels like Jason Isaac’s political views are affecting “the fan base”, which we can translate to “me”. This fan is not speaking out on behalf of others, he is speaking out on behalf of himself. Isaacs previously criticized Trump via tweets and retweets of anti-Trump videos, so this *whitegenocide believer felt the need to call Isaacs out. It is obvious that someone who repeatedly uses the hashtag #whitegenocide doesn’t believe in the value of diversity and is likely to support the President who said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” to America and who also wants to keep Muslims out. So, instead of saying that he disagrees with Isaac’s political views, this twitter user simply tries to say that entertainers as a whole are not allowed to express political opinions.

It looks like @Eye_of_Empire has deleted some of the tweets in the thread since, but his original response to Isaacs appealed to the principle of free speech. So after criticizing someone for exercising their free speech, this user says his comment is appropriate because it was his legal right. Isaacs has that legal right too. Fine, maybe you want to argue that Isaacs is an actor so it is different. It shouldn’t be. Actors are real people too, with their own fears, values and political beliefs.

The real question here is if @Eye_of_Empire would be as upset with Jason Isaacs if Isaacs repeatedly proclaimed his love for Trump and his belief in White Genocide. I doubt that would bother @Eye_of_Empire as much. The idea that actors shouldn’t have opinions is a smokescreen for “actors shouldn’t express views different from mine”. If I disagree with an actor’s political views I say that I disagree, I don’t pretend like my anger is about the principle of actors discussing politics.

I was tempted to pursue another topic for this post but I decided to continue with this one because the irony is a godsend. Diversity and acceptance have always been themes of Star Trek, where people of different races (human and alien) look past their differences and work together. Star Trek even has the distinction of having tv’s first interracial kiss between Uhura and Captain Kirk in 1968. So we have this apparent longtime fan of the show who is disgusted by an actor who speaks out against the bigot in Chief. Welcome to America.

Talib Kweli’s Twitter Fingers

As a child, most of the music I listened to was whatever my parents were listening to. I heard the pop and rap on the radio, but also older R&B and reggae. When I was thirteen, I started listening to music independently, getting into the alternative rock that was popular in England (my home at the time). As I grow older, I continuously seek out older music of many genres, wanting to diversify my tastes.

I first heard about Talib Kweli Greene (known professionally as Talib Kweli) when I was doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa. I forget the context for his name being brought up, but I believe he may have been doing a show somewhere in the city. Years later, when I joined Twitter, I was randomly motivated to find his account. To this day, I have not listened to his music. I will, but this post isn’t about his artistry. Anyone who follows Kweli knows he isn’t afraid to engage anyone who tweets to him or about him. Some of these tweets come from people criticizing his career or music for one reason or another, but a lot of the ones I’ve seen are people who accuse him of being racist.

As I’ve discussed before, “colour-blind racism” is the modern racism. It is a naive mindset that racism, both instutional and individual, is dead now except for those pesky people wearing white hoods. It treats any mention of race as being racist, while also defending comments, mindsets and behaviours that rely on racist assumptions. People will say they don’t see colour, and then argue that black people would get killed by cops less if they just obeyed the law. People will say they don’t see colour, but then refuse to date anyone whose skin doesn’t match their own. People will say they don’t see colour, but then assume a black person with a good job isn’t qualified for it.

Racists are drawn to Kweli like moths to the flame. There is a sort of vicious cycle at work, where someone attempts to call Talib out for perceived racism, e.g. Talib’s declarations of being proudly black or his previous responses to another racist. Then once Talib dismantles this racist’s arguments, another jumps in to attack him because he dared to discuss race. Such is the hypocrisy of the colour-blind racist. While they have their own racist assumptions and beliefs, they are quick to throw out the word racist for those who call them out on it. “I’m not racist, you politically correct social justice warriors, (other right wing buzzwords) race-baiters are the real racists. I just think I should be able to say I don’t want more black people in my neighborhood without libtards attacking me. Black people are violent after all! That’s not racist, I have black friends.”

I have sometimes wondered why Kweli bothers to respond to these people, and some tweets from fans have also expressed the same question. Some of the haters accused Kweli of doing nothing but tweeting all day, but a look at his touring and musical output shows he is a productive artist. He handles time well, but I guess I still wondered why he bothers. Then I read Kweli’s own answer to the question, and it all made sense.

People are always quick to label racist online comments as the work of “trolls”, people who write inflammatory comments and derive enjoyment from the uproar they produce. The word “troll” implies that the poster doesn’t actually believe what they wrote, they are just saying it to see how people react. This kind of mindset, where we just ignore online racists, is downright irresponsible in this day and age. As Kweli points out, the alt-right is an entity that was birthed online. Real people reside behind the alt-right sites and comments that have proliferated online. These people have jobs, families and the ability to vote. They got Trump elected, with their own votes and their ability to spread misinformation that reinvigorated the resentment of minorities that many people in America harbour. Kweli combats racism through campaigns and events and he knows “twitter fingers” may not be for everyone, but it is one of the tools he employs to combat the ignorance that is stoked by this new climate of right wing backlash.

The people who decide to accuse Kweli of racism demonstrate one racist assumption after another, and a straw-man understanding of concepts like white privilege. User @adamant919 had the audacity to use the term “black privilege” to describe black people’s supposed natural gifts and our “handouts” with programs like affirmative action, which actually benefit white women more and don’t lead to unqualified applicants getting selected for jobs. Funny enough, the user appears to have deleted his account since. This isn’t the first user that has deleted his account following an encounter with Kweli and it gives me some hope that some people might realize the error of their ways. However, someone can delete their account out of a sense of embarrassment, without actually reflecting on their views.

This Slate article offers an interesting case study of the infamous Hunger Games (2012) racist backlash, where supposed fans were upset that the character Rue was played by a black girl, even though Rue is described as having dark brown skin in the book. One fan began collecting these racist tweets, such as “Rue being black ruined the movie” and created a tumblr account to showcase them. This article follows up on this tumblr account, reaching out to some of the twitter users to get their thoughts.

The user who wrote this tweet argued that she didn’t mean to be racist. She was just surprised that Rue was black since Rue was supposed to remind Katniss (the white, main character) of her sister. Firstly, “remind her of” doesn’t always mean “look like”. If she was truly “colour-blind” then Rue’s skin colour shouldn’t have even registered with her. Aside from the terrible excuse offered by the twitter user, the author brings up a point that a lot of people like to use for defending racists online: “This kind of drive-by scapegoating does not seem conducive to genuine reflection (and it definitely doesn’t encourage reflection in the individuals it scapegoats).  It allows us to point the finger at other, younger, relatively powerless people, rather than consider the ways in which we’re implicated in a problem that is much, much larger than a few misguided teenagers on Twitter.”

I have heard people say the same thing to Kweli about his Twitter comments, and it usually comes across as very disengenious. Some of the users from the Hunger Games example may be teenagers, but some of them are grown men and women. The same goes for the alt-right. People who throw out the “don’t shame people” argument out act as if there are no attempts made to examine racism on a much larger scale. There is plenty of information online, in classes, on tv that sheds light on the much larger problem of institutional racism. People choose to ignore these sources. People choose ignorance. They reject enlightenment as left wing propaganda, the work of libtards or social justice warriors. People surround themselves with friends and sources who share the same views and refuse to challenge any of their assumptions about the world. How exactly should their racist comments be dealt with?  Conservatives love to throw out the argument of free speech to defend bigotry and no one is saying they don’t have the right to make such comments. My question is: If someone is willing to go online and criticize someone’s skin colour or attack a rapper for his liberal beliefs, why are we discouraged from exercising our free speech and shining the spotlight back on them?

As Kweli says, if someone is already racist “when I respond to them, it doesn’t matter what facts I give or how much sense I make. They’re going to be who they are.” Being kinder to the racists won’t make them more prone to ‘reflection.” The real purpose behind responding is to avoid having your message become silenced. There were probably millions of people, viewing one racist comment after another from the alt-right and thinking that all those comments wouldn’t have any impact on their lives. They stayed silent, and let misinformation and racist rhetoric fill the void. They may as well have packed Trump’s things and moved them into the White House for him.